x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Djokovic glad to have Becker on team after winning third straight Abu Dhabi title

Serb beats David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, reports Steve Elling.

Novak Djokovic won his fifth straight tournament title since losing to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Novak Djokovic won his fifth straight tournament title since losing to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

ABU DHABI // Novak Djokovic was only half-kidding when he said that one of the fringe benefits of hiring Boris Becker as his new coaching guru is that he will be polish his ability to speak in the German tongue.

The world No 2 spent four years as a youngster living in suburban Munich and impressively speaks five languages, although Spanish is not on the linguistic list.

Still, he bid a quick adios to David Ferrer in the finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship with a 7-5, 6-2 win on Saturday night at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex.

Truly, at this point in his career ascent, Djokovic can say goodbye a dozen different ways, without uttering a word. Ferrer ought to know.

Ferrer, the world No 3 and a player who rarely blinks in the face of a stiff challenge, nonetheless found an all-too-familiar fate at the hands of Djokovic, who won his third consecutive Mubadala title – beating Ferrer at some point during all three championship runs.

Extending a torrid stretch that began immediately after his loss in the US Open final over the summer, Djokovic won his fifth straight tournament title, and though it is unofficial, the Mubadala event featured five other players from the world top 10. With the Australian Open as his next start – Djokovic won a record third consecutive title in Melbourne last January – he absolutely seems poised to reclaim the top spot from Rafael Nadal.

Any minute now.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world No 10, played Andy Murray, Djokovic and Nadal in succession this week and was asked who made the biggest impression. There was little hesitation.

“I would say Novak,” Tsonga said. “He’s impressive.”

With Becker seated a few feet away in a courtside locale, Djokovic overcame an early deficit and heads into the new year without losing a step from his autumn flourish.

“I have to say I’m really glad to have Boris on the team,” he said. “It’s great that it started with winning this trophy right here. Hopefully, we can win more.”

Where to from here? Good question.

“We’ll see, ask me in half a year,” Djokovic said, laughing. “It’s still too early to say where he is going to take us.”

Djokovic’s direction-finder seems to work pretty well regardless of who is manning the joy stick.

Especially against Ferrer.

Djokovic entered the match with an 11-5 career record against the Spanish veteran, which did not include the two times he beat him previously at the Mubadala event. Including the Abu Dhabi victories, Djokovic has downed the overmatched Ferrer eight straight times.

Yet Ferrer, 31, was hardly disappointed with the way he played. It underscored that the chasm between Djokovic and most players can seem oceanic in width at times.

“With Nole [Djokovic], I need to do more,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer is hardly alone. Including Davis Cup matches and two unofficial wins this week, Djokovic has won 26 matches in succession since losing to Nadal at the US Open final.

Moreover, Djokovic has won four times in Dubai and three times in Abu Dhabi. Roger Federer might be a longtime Dubai resident, but at the moment, Djokovic is the darling of the UAE.

“Well, there’s no real secret or rational explanation,” he said. “It’s just that I feel good here. The people welcome and support me.”